heroes of the 20th century

As unionism continues to pretzel itself into more and more convoluted political shapes and cavorts around the Stormont playground in ever-decreasing circles , it might be timely to have a good look at their track record and their place in history. It was brought to mind when I was reading about Jeremy Corbyn and how ,to his supporters , he appears to have been on the “right side of history” on many past occasions. That is …the right side of history if you happen to be on the side of the oppressed and their historical troubles, or the ordinary working -man.He may not choose to dress as a Topshop window dummy, with matching tie and socks.He might not believe in gods or even monarchies and therefore find the idea of singing an anthem invoking god’s salvation of a gracious queen to be be an near- absurd idea .He has been in places of history, at the right side of the debate ,in the right moment of time, though.
Where has unionism and its supporters been when this story is written in the fullness of time. What will children read in the future . I remember being given a book for Christmas in the early 1960’s called “Heroes of the Twentieth Century”. It was written by Ian Fellowes Gordon and was filled with stories of “great” men and women who had made their mark in the first sixty years of the century. Featured were stories about Gandhi and India , JFK’s wartime adventures on Patrol Torpedo Boat 109, Hilary and Tenzing’s conquest of Everest in 1953, Marie Curie’s work with radium and polonium isotopes….all presented in a fat ,Boy’s Adventure format between hard covers, complete with photographs and line drawings depicting the heroes derring-do. Beside obvious heroes such as Yuri Gagarin and John Glenn, FD Roosevelt and Albert Schweitzer there were included {in retrospect} some dubious choices such as Mao Tse-Tung and Winston Churchill. Like JFK their stories curdled somewhat in the fullness of knowledge and time. The cover featured a picture of the Robert Falcon Scott ,standing in the snow. I later saw John Mills immortalise “Scott of the Antarctic” in a stirring old black and white film; the kind of thing that was a staple on Sunday afternoon television.
Now there’s a thing to tussle with. This stuff has crossed my mind before but I’ve never really fully focused on it .Just look beyond the constricted politics of unionism and loyalism’s very narrow focus and you find out very quickly that a unionist party ,by it’s very nature always seems to be both right -wing and very conservative in its political outlook .At it’s extremes it panders to some fascist elements but by general consensus loyalists and unionists vote for politicians who never seem to have any affinity with socialist or left -wing policies or even the welfare of the ordinary working -man,or the oppressed , anywhere in the world. Neither do they seem to have supported anyone who has been confronted with the brutality of an oppressive regime or who has suffered . How can that be when they are supported by those same kind of working men? Is it that these same ordinary men also see the entire world in those same narrow terms and are still manipulated to vote for a party or parties that really haven’t got their best interests at heart? Of course there’s the old saw that one man’s fighter for freedom is another man’s terrorist. That’s probably the dictum they’ve carried throughout their dealings with the countries of the world.
Somehow unionism and loyalism’s natural bedfellows have been those who have stood on the wrong side of the historical record down through the years and in full view of the television audiences for this past fifty -odd years .They will never feature alongside those other heroes of the twentieth century whose story has since been written. There was South Africa for starters. That was a big one.
Where were they when Nelson Mandela was gaoled by the apartheid regime in South Africa? Were they out demonstrating for his release, alongside the likes of Jeremy Corbyn on the side of the ANC .?No , they were on the wrong side of history on that score. Not one of them had read “Cry the Beloved Country” .None of their representatives were ever going to be invited to Nelson’s 90th birthday party when he was finally released and the mad apartheid regime was dismantled. You might think they thought that being a racist was quite alright, might you not? This is a man who received the Nobel Prize for Peace and changed the course of history. Somehow you can’t see any of loyalism’s stalwarts standing alongside Michelle Obama ,Lewis Hamilton, Will Smith and any number of thousands of admirers of the man throughout the planet. There were no Specials fans there. No Bob Dylan or Bruce Springsteen fans, no Bob Marley aficionados  either . No…”Free Nelson Mandela!” being sung at the top of their lungs there… . You really have to ask yourself what they didn’t “get” that everyone else did. Did they ever realise they had chosen the wrong side of the debate, even on purely moral grounds? I don’t think they actually know how wrong they were. There’s a skewed morality there.
Where were they when the likes of Jeremy Corbyn was campaigning to bring Margaret Thatcher’s brutal friend the Chilean dictator, Augusto Pinochet , to justice ? She allied herself with this be-medalled brute ,who professed himself a friend of Britain. Well Pinochet was later arrested in London in 1998 for crimes against humanity .Before that he was responsible for 1,200 and 3,200 people being killed. He had up to 80,000 people interned and as many as 30,000 were tortured during the years he was in government. By the time of his death he still had hundreds of human rights abuse cases ,pending. Where were those unionist and loyalist voices of support for those oppressed people? Pinochet’s friend Margaret Thatcher had no great track record when it came to death either. No Red Wedge fans …no Paul Weller or Simply Red fans either. I suppose they were all busy listening to Willie McCrea. It really is hard to know.
Corbyn was also a friend of the gay community from way back ,supporting Gay Rights while the Tories called anyone left -wing who supported gay rights the “Loony Left”. Given the DUP and the Ulster Unionists track record on gay issues , you can be sure that none of them supported their fellow gay citizens quest for equality . If anything they have actively opposed them at every move to the point of homophobia. For that reason alone they were on the wrong side of history at every point .Within the past year we have had the debacle of the “Gay Cake” row for only one example and Norneverland, alone, still remains the last redoubt in these islands for the homophobes who refuse to give all their citizens the same basic rights and respect. There a problem with “morality” there too.
Where was unionism’s support for the working men when Thatcher ‘s Tories attacked the mining communities in the UK? Jeremy Corbyn fully supported the miners and the NUM during the Miners’ Strike ,while the government carried out a policy of destruction which is still felt as bitterly in those wrecked communities.
When it came to anything remotely to do with the Irish question or miscarriages of justice by the British Government , unionism blindly believed that the government and the security forces could do no wrong , especially if it meant imprisoning anyone from an “Irish” or nationalist background. As far as they were concerned , the Guildford Four and the Birmingham Six were guilty , basically because they weren’t unionists. That seemed to be enough. There was no campaign from unionism to have these innocent men freed. They might as well have never existed. They would rather believe the lies that had kept these men in prison for some fifteen years rather than believe that the government and the security forces had lied to them. Unionism has been consistent in this kind of behaviour over the years.
Every time you look at an issue which concerns injustice ,common sense thinking ,should it be to do with Iraq, Afghanistan, talking with Sinn Fein or anyone else to resolve problems, the campaign for Palestinian rights or even the flying of flags in the same way as in the UK , unionism has been found wanting. It’s hard to imagine a unionist being a CND member either or giving support to a campaign against the spending and financial waste of untold £billions on nuclear weapons, which if they were ever used by anyone , anywhere ,would spell the end of the planet.{It makes sense that even if they were used by only one nation against another , the damage would affect all of us}. Corbyn has always , throughout the years, been there, fighting against that waste …fighting for the oppressed and the working -classes who will be used as the cannon-fodder to fight their economic wars. The ones who are gulled by tales of “patriotism”, when it’s always about the money.
Instead, within unionism we have politicians who would build fences along the border , given half a chance .
I suppose it should be no surprise that Corbyn’s assumption to the leadership of the Labour Party has not been greeted with cheering in the ranks of unionism . You have to wonder why all those people who vote for those parties feel that way in every case. Can they all be racists ? Can they all be bigots? Can they all be homophobes? it’s almost unbelievable to imagine a scenario like that but they have never shown any other face ..
When it comes to stories ,should a revised and updated version of that “Heroes of the Twentieth Century” be written , who do they think will be featured alongside the likes of Nelson Mandela. It certainly will not be unionism’s old boss Ian Paisley or his erstwhile buddy Peter Robinson. I can’t remember one heroic instance in any of their chequered histrionic careers. They just seem to have a knack and a record of choosing the wrong side of the argument to be on and appearing on the wrong side of history at every turn….